3Forbidding to marry. Having described the class, he next mentions two instances, (71) namely, the prohibition of marriage and of some kinds of food. They arise from that hypocrisy which, having forsaken true holiness, seeks something else for the purpose of concealment and disguise; for they who do not keep from ambition, covetousness, hatred, cruelty, and such like, endeavor to obtain a righteousness by abstaining from those things which God has left at large. Why are consciences burdened by those laws, but because perfection is sought in something different from the law of God? This is not done but by hypocrites, who, in order that they may with impunity transgress that righteousness of the heart which the law requires, endeavor to conceal their inward wickedness by those outward observances as veils with which they cover themselves.
This was a distinct threatening of danger, so that it was not difficult for men to guard against it, at least if they had lent their ears to the Holy Spirit, when he gave so express a warning. Yet we see that the darkness of Satan generally prevailed, so that the clear light of this striking and memorable prediction was of no avail. Not long after the death of the apostle, arose Encratites, (who took their name from continence,) Tatianists, (72) Catharists, Montanus with his sect, and at length Manichaeans, who had extreme aversion to marriage and the eating of flesh, and condemned them as profane things. Although they were disowned by the Church, on account of their haughtiness, in wishing to subject others to their opinions, yet it is evident that those who opposed them yielded to their error more than was proper. It was not intended by those of whom I am now speaking to impose a law on Christians; but yet they attached greater weight than they ought to have done to superstitious observances, such as abstaining from marriage, and not tasting flesh.
Such is the disposition of the world, always dreaming that God ought to be worshipped in a carnal manner, as if God were carnal. Matters becoming gradually worse, this tyranny was established, that it should not be lawful for priests or monks to enter into the married state, and that no person should dare to taste flesh on certain days. Not unjustly, therefore, do we maintain that this prediction was uttered against the Papists, since celibacy and abstinence from certain kinds of food are enjoined by them more strictly than any commandment of God. They think that they escape by an ingenious artifice, when they torture Paul’ words to direct them against Tatianists or Manichaeans, or such like; as if the Tatianists had not the same means of escape open to them by throwing back the censure of Paul on the Cataphrygians, and on Montanus the author of that sect; or as if the Cataphrygians had it not in their power to bring forward the Encratites, in their room, as the guilty parties. But Paul does not here speak of persons, but of the thing itself; and, therefore although a hundred different sects be brought forward, all of which are charged with the same hypocrisy in forbidding some kinds of food, they shall all incur the same condemnation.
Hence it follows, that to no purpose do the Papists point to the ancient heretics, as if they alone were censured; we must always see if they are not guilty in the same manner. They object, that they do not resemble the Encratites and Manichaens, because they do not absolutely forbid the use of marriage and of flesh, but only on certain days constrain to abstinence from flesh, and make the vow of celibacy compulsory on none but monks and priests and nuns. But this excuse also is excessively frivolous; for, first, they nevertheless make holiness to consist in these things; next, they set up a false and spurious worship of God; and lastly, they bind consciences by a necessity from which they ought to have been free.
In the fifth book of Eusebius, there is a fragment taken out of the writings of Apollonius, in which, among other things, he reproaches Montanus with being the first that dissolved marriage, and laid down laws for fasting. He does not say, that Montanus absolutely prohibited marriage or certain kinds of food. It is enough if he lay a religious obligation on the consciences, and command men to worship God by observing those things; for the prohibition of things that are indifferent, whether it be general or special, is always a diabolical tyranny. That this is true in regard to certain kinds of food will appear more clearly from the next clause,
Which God created. It is proper to observe the reason, that, in the use of various kinds of food, we ought to be satisfied with the liberty which God has granted to us; because He created them for this purpose. It yields inconceivable joy to all the godly, when they know that all the kinds of food which they eat are put into their hands by the Lord, so that the use of them is pure and lawful. What insolence is it in men to take away what God bestows! Did they create food? Can they make void the creation of God? Let it always be remembered by us, that he who created the food, gave us also the free use of it, which it is vain for men to attempt to hinder.
To be received with Thanksgiving God created food to be received; that is, that we may enjoy it. This end can ever be set aside by human authority. He adds, with thanksgiving; because we can never render to God any recompense for his kindness but a testimony of gratitude. And thus he holds up to greater abhorrence those wicked lawgivers who, by new and hasty enactments, hinder the sacrifice of praise which God especially requires us to offer to him. Now, there can be no thanksgiving without sobriety and temperance; for the kindness of God is not truly acknowledged by him who wickedly abuses it.
By believers What then? Does not God make his sun to rise daily on the good and the bad? (Mat_5:45.) Does not the earth, by his command, yield bread to the wicked? Are not the very worst of men fed by his blessing? When David says,
“ causeth the herb to grow for the service of men, that he may bring forth food out of the earth,” (Psa_104:14)
the kindness which he describes is universal. I reply, Paul speaks here of the lawful use, of which we are assured before God. Wicked men are in no degree partakers of it, on account of their impure conscience, which, as is said,
“ all things.” (Tit_1:15,)
And indeed, properly speaking, God has appointed to his children alone the whole world and all that is in the world. For this reason, they are also called the heirs of the world; for at the beginning Adam was appointed to be lord of all, on this condition, that he should continue in obedience to God. Accordingly, his rebellion against God deprived of the right, which had been bestowed on him, not only himself but his posterity. And since all things are subject to Christ, we are fully restored by His mediation, and that through faith; and therefore all that unbelievers enjoy may be regarded as the property of others, which they rob or steal.
And by those that know the truth In this clause he defines who they are whom he calls “” namely, those that have a knowledge of sound doctrine; for there is no faith but from the word of God; in order that we may not falsely think, as the Papists imagine, that faith is a confused opinion.
(71) “Apres avoir mis le terme general, a scavoir Doctrines des diables, et puis une espece, a seavoir hypoerisie; maintenant ail met deux poinets par. tieuliers de ceste hypocrisies.” — “ having employed the general term, namely, Doctrines of devils, and next mentioned one class, namely, hypocrisy, he mentions two individual instances of that hypocrisy.”
(72) “ by birth an Assyrian, and a disciple of Justin Martyr, had a great number of followers, who were, after him, called Tatianists, but were nevertheless more frequently distinguished from other sects by names relative to the austerity of their manners. For, as they rejected with a sort of horror all the comforts and conveniences of life, and abstained from wine with such a rigorous obstinacy as to use nothing but water even at the celebration of the Lord’ Supper; as they macerated their bodies by continual fastings, and lived a severe life of celibacy and abstinence; so they were called Encratites, (temperate,) Hydroparastates, (drinkers of water,) and Apotaetites, (renouncers.)” — Moshezn’ Eccl. History.